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Adventurous Cooking on a Budget

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

I have been getting creative with my cooking lately, and trying to make a lot of different ethnic cuisines.  I've been doing a lot of Indian lately, and have now started to explore Korean dishes.  One problem that I've been running into is that cooking new styles of cuisine can get really expensive really fast!  Since I don't have a lot of the spices and whatnot on-hand already, I may end up spending upwards of $50 on a single recipe for all of those things.  Once I have them, they generally last a while, but the initial purchase can be a bit daunting (particularly if I don't end up taking to the style of cooking, and therefore not using everything later on).  

 

Does anyone have any advice on "economic cooking" in this regard?  Really it seems that the spices and herbs are the main things that end up costing an arm and a leg, as most of the vegetables and things can be found at reasonable prices.  

post #2 of 7

I get my spices at a health food store that has them in bulk jars. That way I can get a tablespoon or whatever I need without having to buy more than I need, which helps my wallet, and I don't have to worry about leftover amounts going stale.

Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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post #3 of 7

Ethnic markets. All the way. Spices are much less expensive, turnover is usually brisk so they are fresh. Plus, the markets themselves are fascinating and inspiring.

 

There is a spice--specific store now near me that sells things in very tiny quantities. I have bought one or two things there that I haven't been able to find anywhere else.

post #4 of 7

You don't need ALL the spices listed in the recipe. I mean, if you have them all, then by all means, use them all. But often I find myself looking at a recipe thinking "Hmmm okay I'll skip that and that, and that one as well." I mean, if I'm going to make a tajine that requires fresh parsley and fresh cilantro on top of dried coriander, cumin, ginger and lemon confit, I may look in my pantry, find cumin and coriander, some leftover powdered ginger, buy the lemon confit, and skip the parsley and cilantro. Or maybe I'll have fresh parsley in my backyard, but I'll be missing the coriander. No big deal! I'd rather make the dish with what's available on hand than spend an extra $5 just for two out of the 10 spices the recipe calls for. 

 

Unless, of course, you know you'll be using those again later in the future. 

post #5 of 7

  Good points French Fries. I often will leave out or substitute an ingredient for a untried dish if it is an accent ingredient. Generally I'm more concerned with the prep and cooking process as bigger factors when attempting new cuisines. Sometimes things look great on paper and you go for it. Later your exhausted and ticked off because the process was so much more involved, so what if you didn't have a teaspoon of that smoked sea salt from Madagascar ground with lava rocks .

 

For example... we cooked fish at home a few nights ago...

 

Roommate (Want's southern fish fry): Fish -> Zatarain's fish fry in a ziplock bag *shake* -> Oil, done in 15 minutes. :lips:

 

Me (Crave's tempura): Cut and season fish on both sides; make complicated ponzu sauce with fresh grated garlic, ginger, shallot, orange zest, + X amount wet ingredients; cut onion and jalapeno rings: make breading station (Seasoned flour, club soda, cornstarch, instant mashed potato based batter then panko dredge); wet hand, dry hand fiasco; fry veggies in batches, hold in low oven; fry fish in batches; plate; glare at messy kitchen and contemplate suicide; done in 1.5 hours.  Worth it? Not after all that, but it wasn't because of a spice ingredient that was missing in the batter. Nope, cause I was attempting a untried recipe for a more Japanese version of frozen tilapia. :crazy: 

 

  Use your imagination if its an accent flavor your not including and test your recipe. If everything for the cooking processes is in, give the recipe a shot and pray its not a situation like this. Btw Indian recipes have screwed me a few times like this, the upside is its usually a dutch ovens worth of food for the week, not a platter of fried food that wont hold long.

post #6 of 7

I store spices in the refrigerator in order to keep them fresh.

 

Both bottom drawers of my fridge have nothing but spices (and are jammed). But because they are so expensive to replace and some are used so rarely, it is important to me to keep them fresh.

 

I sometimes buy an extra bottle of a spice if the grocery store has a really good price and it is one that I frequently use, but it goes into the freezer until my open bottle has been used.

 

I NEVER try a new recipe unless I have ALL of the ingredients.

post #7 of 7
Quote:
Originally Posted by French Fries View Post
 

You don't need ALL the spices listed in the recipe. I mean, if you have them all, then by all means, use them all. But often I find myself looking at a recipe thinking "Hmmm okay I'll skip that and that, and that one as well." I mean, if I'm going to make a tajine that requires fresh parsley and fresh cilantro on top of dried coriander, cumin, ginger and lemon confit, I may look in my pantry, find cumin and coriander, some leftover powdered ginger, buy the lemon confit, and skip the parsley and cilantro. Or maybe I'll have fresh parsley in my backyard, but I'll be missing the coriander. No big deal! I'd rather make the dish with what's available on hand than spend an extra $5 just for two out of the 10 spices the recipe calls for. 

 

Unless, of course, you know you'll be using those again later in the future. 

 

 

While I generally agree with what you are saying there are some spices, or mixtures that you just can't omit and have the same dish.  Chinese 5 spice is one that comes to mind most readily.  If you don't have 5 Spice powder you probably also don't have star anise, and without that very distinctive flavor the dish just isn't the same.  You just have to be smart about what to leave out, at times.

 

I also second ethnic markets. Spices at these markets tend to be a lot less expensive than in regular grocery stores.  While you might have a problem finding an Indian store depending on where you live, most good size towns now have at least 1 Asian market that will cater to a lot of different ethnic cuisines.  I live in the middle of Wisconsin and even towns as small as 40,000-60,000 people have at least one Asian market and there I can find most of my needs for Thai, Vietnamese, Korean, and Chinese cooking.

 

Also look for spice blends or pastes.  Buying garam masala, at an Indian market, can save you from buying anywhere from 4-8 spices often used in Indian cooking.  Curry pastes can also do the same for Thai and Vietnamese cuisines.  Eventually you will want to move away from these but as you are exploring these cuisines they can help save you money, and if bought from ethnic markets can be quite authentic.

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